Smart Energy Pilot, Design it the right way

Published: Mon 03 Mar 2014
A blog entry by Sasha Bermann

Contributed by:

Sasha Bermann
Chief Dissemination Officer

Sasha Bermann's Blog

Written by Steve Xu, Analyst

Clearly Identify Project Goals

To implement a successful pilot, a set of well-defined goals are very critical, especially if customer engagement plays an important role in the pilot. The goals should be clearly identified during the planning stage. If not, the project manager cannot make an informed decision on which type of solution to test? Which channels to use for communication, feedback and engagement? What message to convey? How long the communication and engagement should last; 3 months, 1 year or throughout the pilot? Therefore, it is important to address the following points:

  • How much capital/budget is required
  • Time frame 
  • How you plan to communicate the trial both internally and externally
  • What time commitments you will need and from which staff members in order to support the program (such as customer service call center to address customers’ inquiries and questions even prior to the pilot)
  • Any technology you will use to attract interest or enhance engagement
  • Risk assessment: What is the worst case scenario if communication goes wrong
  • Where the feedback mechanisms are for people to share their input about the project, both internally and externally
  • What are the KPIs that can be used to assess and evaluate the success of the pilot from both customer side and technology side
Combining Communication and Feedback
Referring to Empower Demand I (VaasaETT, 2011), there is a lot of discussion about, which forms of feedback work best for smart energy projects. Through examining over hundreds of small to large scale smart energy pilots around the world, the facts show that the use of multiple feedback channels is one of the best strategies and it could be a combination of both communication and feedback channels to drive awareness, interest and participation. For example, our research discovered that while in-home displays are typically the most effective form of feedback, well-designed leaflets can sometimes prove to be equally effective.  
Moreover, communication and feedback should be personalized for different groups of customers. There is no one-size-fit-all type of solution. Therefore, types of communication and feedback should be tailored to the right media and should not be based solely on a universal set of tips and advices to participants who vary in demographics, habits, behaviors and energy usage patterns.
More information on our energy research and projects: